Why Adult Friendship Makes Me Sad Sometimes

Wasn’t this easier when I was younger?

Illustration by Maria Jia Ling Pitt

Being a good friend and being good at adult friendships are not the same thing. I realized this recently when I received a text message from a close friend about a mutual friend’s bridal shower. It was the day of the celebration and not only was she bummed I couldn’t attend, she was also pissed that I hadn’t even responded to the invite. The friend who texted me, meanwhile, frequently, patiently, kindly and without judgement reminds me when I forget important stuff like this. It happens often.

When I was younger, friendship was easy. I wrote letters with colored gel pens to friends sitting right next to me. I made locker collages on birthdays and talked on the phone for hours. Everyone’s feelings were carefully, meticulously (if not obsessively) catered to. It wasn’t all altruistic goodwill; there were societal pressures and repercussions. But it all got done.

Now, as an adult, I have a job and bills and responsibilities outside of the universe of best friendships. Time really does fly, just like my parents said it would. With each minute that gets eaten by adulthood, one more good intention does, too. It is remarkable how quickly it becomes too late to send that card; that text; that wedding, housewarming or baby present. It’s terrifying how easy it is not to call or show up to things that matter. What if one day all of my friends wake up and realize how much I suck at this?

The truth is, some will. Some have. Probably more than I’ve yet to register. Not all friendships that carry into adulthood are hard; proximity helps. Similar schedules and circles makes it easier. Not all adult friendships are going to last, either. People are going to hurt us, and we are going to hurt people who we did not mean to hurt. (Somehow, I just learned this.) But I’m positive that the friends who we are meant to stay with forever understand that. They are forgiving of our work-induced black-hole absences or when we bail because we need sleep. They know that we do not suck. We are still very good friends, especially where it counts.

Adult friendships are a little bit sad in this way — how sometimes, we concede to less-than exemplary demonstrations of our sincere love. And in return, we reciprocate the understanding. It’s not that we don’t want to make birthday collages on grown-up lockers for one another without needing a Facebook reminder, it’s that we can’t. Not always.

This does not mean giving up. I have a lot of cards sitting on my dresser that I intend to mail once I finally buy stamps; there are a few friendships that I cracked and want to repair. At the same time, I have faith that certain sisterhoods are built to withstand periods of not-so-good friendship, and when they do, I will thank those enduring souls for their patience, send magnificent bouquets of flowers and be prepared to reciprocate.

Illustration by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

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  • lateshift

    this. For all people hate on social media, it’s actually made it easier to feel at least a little bit connected with people who don’t live within 15 minutes of my front door (as opposed to complete radio silence). But after a certain point, anything that we don’t depend on for a paycheck (work) or aren’t legally bound to (lease-sharing life partner/spouse/kids) winds up getting the short end of the stick, time-wise. And that sux.

    • Adrianna

      My boyfriend and I were laying in bed, inches away from each other’s faces. He was still looking at his phone after he shared a picture on social media.

      I was talking about something or another, and his growing smirk was completely out of context.
      “Sorry, my friend commented something funny on my photo.”

      I’ve deactivated my Facebook in November, long enough ago to realize what an absurd statement that was. Is this what friendship is? Is this what human connection has trickled down to? That we know what people are up to through their Instagram photos, but we’re to busy to celebrate the birth of their child?

      • It can be helpful though. All of my family live on other continents except for my mom, so thanks to facebook I at least kind of know what’s going on with my sister and my niece. We don’t always get to skype so it’s nice to have that connection.

        When it comes to close people like my boyfriend/friends, I do prefer to talk to them IRL but when that’s not possible social media does just fine.

      • Honestly, I gained contact with my biological family on FB so it can be a blessing too lmao. Social media is a very “human” thing, when I say that I mean could be a range from horrendous to enlightening for example having a throat, the throat could lead you to having the best meal of your life with your dopamines going into a frenzy or leading you to a painful death, choking (WOW it sounds dramatic when I actually say it out of my head….)

        • Adrianna

          I immigrated to USA from Poland, so I too used Facebook to find family members I haven’t seen in person or even photos, in over 20 years, or ever. I don’t have any family in the United States.

          I talked to two strangers with my uncommon last name who reside in Canada and Argentina. The Canadian and I figured out that we may have the same great-grandfather, who was murdered during the Holocaust. Both the Canadian and Argentinian have my father’s same exact blue eye color. I still remember how I felt like the day my childhood friend from Poland found me through Myspace in 2006.

          So yes, social media obviously has positives. I tolerated the negatives of Facebook for years because it was my only tie to these relatives. But in the end it just made me sadder that I don’t have real relationships with these people.

  • Babs

    Hmm I definitely agree that it’s harder, but I do think if you want to show up for your friends you can, even if it’s just a text. Our lives ARE busy, so you have to consciously choose to put work into your friendships. I’m not a pro at this, but it was a conscious decision I made earlier this year. I thought about how I would like my friends to show up for me, and made the commitment to do the same for them. Because you’re right, at some point, if you stop showing up in any way, you probs won’t have any friends left to show up for.

    • streats

      I guess “showing up” means different things to different people though. So sometimes it’s not that one person isn’t making an effort, it could be that they’re making a different type of effort than the other person is expecting, and things get lost in between.

      • Babs

        For sure! And maybe we need to have more frank convos with our best friends about what they need. If we’re struggling than they probably are, too, so maybe it’s just about setting expectations with the people who matter most? Not the sexiest conversation, admittedly, but maybe it would bring back some ease.

  • Rheanonn Perez

    while living in new york, i became best friends with my roommate. we met via craigslist so it feels like such a rare story lol. as u can imagine, we gave each other daily recaps of our day, had nightly netflix marathons, we even hung out outside of the apartment a few times a month lol. anyway a year ago we both moved back to our respective hometowns & it’s been so weird & hard. “proximity” def played a role in our friendship bc she was always in the next room lol! now we only talk every so often but when we do, it’s like nothing has changed, & as cliche as that sounds, it’s what truly matters.

    it’s showed me how sensitive i am lol. it’s so easy to chalk up lack of texts & facetimes to “whatever i guess u don’t care”. i have to be a true ADULT & understand that although adult stuff gets in the way sometimes, she’s still my bestie.

    • streats

      Yes! I have a couple of friends who I met abroad and who’ve always been long distance. One of them we’re in touch every few days and it’s a mix of “what d’ya do last night?” and deep conversation, and another we only catch up a couple of times a year but it always feels amazing to pick up where we left off even though we don’t have that every day exchange of banalities. I’ve another friend who is that “I guess you don’t care” type if we don’t talk in ages or if I don’t give her a detailed rundown of my life – it’s infuriating when people assume that and forget that both sides have different needs and that you can be similar in likes and completely different in personality.

  • tmm16

    I’ve been thinking about my friendships lately and how they’ve changed post-graduation, which is another topic all together. Friendship isn’t perfect because humans aren’t perfect. Friends come and go as people come and go. At the end of the day, as long as you feel you’ve done your best to be the most supportive, caring friend you can be, that’s all that matters.

    • streats

      I feel exactly like this. I’ve always been very realistic in knowing that sometimes friendships don’t last and they fizzle for no apparent reason, and that it’s not a bad thing, it’s just life. Part of me feels bad that I’m so cynical, like “well if we fall out of friendship then so be it” but I’d rather that than force something’s that doesn’t bring both people value anymore

  • streats

    What I struggle with is when I realise that a friend and I don’t have the same idea of what it means to be a good friend, or a good person even. Some people value gestures and actions more, others value principles and emotional intelligence more. Yes it’s nice to get a birthday card or be invited to a bridal shower but what about the bigger stuff – when you’re having a hard time do they lift you or make you feel worse? Are they respectful of your time or are they constantly taking it for granted? Do they make an effort to understand and meet your different emotional needs or do they take it personally? How do they handle different views on life choices – do they embrace differences or belittle them? How do they treat other people – do they gossip or share other people’s secrets, can you trust them with yours? I’m finding that I expect a lot from people – I prefer very few, very close friendships into which I can put my whole life, but if they don’t match me on all levels I struggle to continue to put my faith in their value. It’s hard because you can’t get everything from a person.

    • Babs

      similar to my reply above, but just curious how much you vocalize wants/needs with friends? I know I assume that my friends should “get me,” but I’ve been surprised how many times they are way off base. Just pointing it out and being direct about what I want has been helpful.

      • MelanieYvette

        I just had to tell my bestfriend that I really would have appreciated a call, with her knowing that my homie passed away. She let me know that she understands when I’m usually going through something, I need space. BUT, I still felt upset because I just thought she should know to at least pick up the phone. It’s hard expressing your needs but in that moment, I had to get real and tell her.

        • Amanda Jones

          One of my -supposedly- best friends vanished when my sister passed. She didn’t call or come to the funeral and a few weeks later she emailed to say she’d done that because me and my family “needed intimacy”, and that she would not get in touch with me but leave it up to me to call her whenever I wanted, because “you are in a very delicate situation and you need your own timings”.
          Nice way of not getting involved at all while making it look like she was doing me a favour.

      • streats

        I often don’t realise what my needs are until they’re not being met and I have difficulty vocalising them because I wonder sometimes if it’s selfish of me to expect them to be different in order to be my friend? I’m also quite bad at confrontation or bringing up difficult conversations particularly if I don’t anticipate they’ll be well received, or if previous attempts at subtly telling them (without actually telling them but speaking in general terms or disguising it as being about someone else) haven’t yielded the change I need. Or even if my explicit requests (e.g. “Please don’t ask me about Subject X anymore, I’ll tell you if I have something I want to share about it”) have been ignored. It’s hard and I am much more wont to just let things fizzle if I don’t feel I can be completely open with them without them taking it personally.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      So true! It’s also tough when you realize that maybe you see someone as a closer friend than they see you. I’ve definitely been there. My friendship circle has gotten smaller and smaller the older I’ve gotten. I look to the people who have demonstrated time and again that they value me and they value our friendship and that I can trust them.

    • Lil

      Thank you, your insight really helped me. 🙂

    • kelly

      I totally agree. I recently cut off a relationship with a friend because making plans was like signing a contract. One of the last straws was when I had a particularly horrible day and told her I couldn’t go to an event (the plans were loose to begin with) and offered to reschedule. She wouldn’t budge; told me that going to the event would make me feel better. But you can’t tell me what’s going to make me feel better. I realized that she always made me feel worse and not even once was there for me emotionally. You can’t get everything from a relationship, but the pros have to outweigh the cons.

      • streats

        Hate when people police your feelings. I once confided in a friend about a health concern I had and she told me “don’t be ridiculous”. One of many paper cuts that led the friendship to bleed to death. Like, even if I am being slightly hypochondriac, dismissing my worry isn’t going to make it go away.

  • Tarliza Carneiro Schall

    I never read an Amelia article I did not love! <3

    • streats

      She’s a real gem #seewhatididthere

      • Amelia Diamond


    • EmilyWilson


  • THIS. As you grow older, I feel like it becomes more and more important to take care of yourself and realize that at times you need to come first, and the people who have been there from day one don’t take this personally. I always say the best friendships are the ones that never change despite each person growing and living their own lives.

  • Rebecca

    I feel like I am most often on the giving end of the equation and my friends are the ones who are too busy/tired/stressed to come to the things that matter for me. It can be hard to cultivate that reciprocity when it doesn’t go evenly in both directions.

    • MelanieYvette

      Yeah, that’s been me. I’ve decided to really understand that we’re all going through this odd marathon of life and that we can’t always give what we’re given (if that makes sense). Even when we want to. I’m also in a “break” stage. I’m taking some time to really think about what’s important, who’s important and how to eliminate the things and people that aren’t. It’s easier said than done for me because, fomo. But, my energy is just too tied up and I can’t burnout (like I’ve done before). Anywho, this is definitely something I’m learning to deal with the hard way (the idea of giving more to the friendship than others seem to reciprocate).

    • Lil

      Same. I used to get really hurt when my efforts weren’t reciprocated, but I realize now that life is hectic for everyone -most of us are just scraping by really.

      At the end of the day you’re lucky if you have just one or two, “real,” friends. It’s a sad truth that comes with growing up.

      On the bright side, people are always coming and going. All we can do is accept that fact while remaining kind and understanding.

    • pamb

      I have a friend with many health issues. So many, that in fact, I can no longer keep straight which are which and where she is in the process.

      But she recently had a serious issue, and I made sure to keep in constant contact. And then I called to tell her that I had been in a car accident. Both parties are ok (it was my fault) but my car was totaled and I was stiff and sore. And she didn’t call. For two weeks. Until I finally called her to ask if she had gotten my message. And she said yes, but she was consumed with her health crisis.

      And so I decided to let a bit go by before my next call, in which I told her that it turned out I had broken a rib. And a bit will go by before my next call as well.

      • Mariana

        I have the exact same experience with one friend. She is always very involved in her own health issues (I get it, she is concerned, I’m also focused in my stuff when I’m concerned) that she seems to lack the empathy for other people that she seeks for herself.

        And she is the type of person that seems to send messages only with a purpose (“I need your help in this, or that”), not just to see how I’m doing and I try to do that with my relationships, to make people feel that they are remembered (because I like that).

        She is/was (that is kinda of grey in this moment) one of my best friends (high school friendship), but I decided to not be so envolved emotional in her stuff, because I would get upset about her personality.

      • Amanda Jones

        I used to have a friend in college with huge self-esteem issues. The kind of girl who would get furious “for no reason” when you got a new boyfriend etc. As she had a disability, in some way I felt that I should tried to help her and cope with it despite her way of feeling better was to underestimate others (she would say to me “well I am ugly but you should lose weight” completely out of the blue, or tell some boy that her sister who is a very good vet “was very pretty but enjoyed ‘too much’ putting her hands up cow’s arses”.
        This lady moved abroad and used to call me for 1hr around twice a week, to moan about her own life and bitch about the new people she was meeting at the moment in a very negative and destructive way, and not even giving me two seconds to comment on the stories she was telling. And then she ALWAYS would end her calls with a “hey you haven’t been very talkative today, I’ll call you in a couple of days and you tell me about your life”. She would call again for sure, to do the same though. To the point that she missed two of my relationships -start, middle and end-, and the death of two of my grandparents, just because I didn’t have the chance to talk!!! In the meantime she got a boyfriend -more stuff to tell me about, but fortunately no more insulting comments towards others.
        After 4 years, they broke up and she decided to come and visit, to cheer herself up. By basically bitching about me and others, and not letting me talk to the extent that I had a new boyfriend who would hang out with us both for one week and I did the experiment of not telling her about him AT ALL. Not even the odd comment of “so who’s this guy? I think he’s showing some interest”. Nothing. NADA. Just because she couldn’t stop talking.
        I never told her anything about that and never got angry really. I just gradually stopped getting in touch from her very last night at mine. For the last 7 years this has saved me around 3 hours a week of reminders of my moustache and my wide hips, of bitching about people I’ve never seen, and of zero interest in whatever I am going through in life.

    • Amelia

      I am exactly the same way- I give so so much into my relationships. but I’ve realized this year that not everyone is capable of giving the same way I can- so I curb my expectations.

      There are those relationships that I find worth being the one to always text, etc – because either the other person is grateful as they’re just naturally not great at keeping in touch, or because we have an amazing time while together. (or both). Those are worth it and I’m happy to be the one to put the initial effort in.

      The ones that aren’t worth it I’ve been trying to let quietly slip out of my life.

    • Lilli

      Totally feel you. I recently came to realise that everyone is giving the best they can right now, and that’s all I can ever expect. It helped me accept that I might be a certain type of friend but I can’t always expect others to give/behave the same. My new favorite quote is ‘Trade your expectations for appreciate and the world changes’

    • Jeanie

      A ten year close friend became an exfriend when I took a day off for her to visit, tried my best to play hostess, and she couldn’t even give me 15min of her time in return. It broke me to finally realize how she as no idea how much I give and she doesn’t give back. By that point I have to admit that I’m the one living in a fantasy land when it comes to that relationship. Reality sucks, but it was time to face it.

  • I am going through this right now. I’m in the messy thick of it, and it fucking sucks. It sucks in a way that keeps you up and night and wakes you up with a splitting headache.

    • DRK

      It gets harder with a spouse and kids as well. My son was viciously bullied for 2 months and none of the moms from his team called me. None. Brutal.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Me and a close friend were just talking about this not too long ago. Some friendships can withstand the long absences and busy work schedules and babies and busy weekends. And some just can’t. As I’ve gotten older my circle of friends has gotten smaller – and that’s a good thing I think.

  • LEM

    This article really rubbed me the wrong way. If you’re looking for understanding from a friend who’s baby shower you ghosted on, know that you were probably one of many. I got married last year and at every single event from the shower to the bachelorette, multiple people didn’t RSVP, or didn’t show up, or bailed last minute. Even to the wedding itself. And let me tell you, it hurts. A baby shower or a wedding or a birthday is important to the person whose day it is, and if you’re inconvenienced by having to “show up” for that person, then maybe you should reevaluate the friendship.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hi LEM. Thank you for your honesty. I’d like to address your point about the reevaluation of friendship: that reevaluation, which yes, happens, is a HUGE part of the “sad” part for me. (novel below..)

      In college and younger than that, I could savvily manage all of my best friendships. And at that age, they were all “best friendships”. There were too many of them. Mindy Kaling once said (joked) that best friendship was a tier, not a single person, and for a while I identified so hard with that. As I have gotten older, yes, friends get prioritized over others. There are those who I am so close with I would do unthinkable things for, who I trust with my computer history and parents should anything happen to me. I would not, realistically, forget to RSVP to a life event because they are so ingrained in my life that I’m probably helping to organize some facet of it.

      And then there are those who have, sadly, because of time, distance, and sometimes the truth that we were never *actually* best friends – like we never shared secrets of any sort or unspoken hopes and dreams, just reallyyy tight acquaintances who laughed at all the same jokes, plus a whole other slew of complications (including me doing things like the anecdote above where i was point-blank at friendship) – have gotten the unintentional short end of the stick. Because as you said, they were not my #1 priority. Everyone cannot be. This is part of what makes me sad. Some of these were friends who I genuinely love. Who I’d want to have in my life forever in some capacity, even if it were to reminisce about some nostalgic memory at a mutual friend’s 10-year-later-wedding.

      You make the best choices you can, and sometimes you make shitty mistakes. You choose your significant other. You choose your sister-level best friend over everyone, every single time you’re free. And slowly, shit-illy, sadly, your priorities materialize. It 100% sucks. This is definitely not everyone’s reality, either. Some people are better at management, balancing time, prioritizing in a wall that accommodates all. But this is my reality.

      • LEM

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply! I totally understand where you’re coming from. And I think it comes down to the type of person you are, also. I am a hardcore Cancer (i.e. sensitive crab and caretaker) and have learned, over time, that it’s unreasonable to expect each single one of my friends to act toward me exactly how I act toward them (I’ve had long conversations with super close friends about how it’s time to faze Friend X out but I can’t bring myself to do it, mostly because of guilt). And that’s probably not healthy, either. You’re right, it’s adulthood and it’s sometimes sad. I guess we all do the best we can.

    • Jeanie

      The wedding thing suck too financially. It blows to save up money to pay for a seat and a plate of food, just for it to go to waste.

      • Liberty

        It also sucks to spend tons of money on people who are getting all the celebrations: engagement, bridal showers, bachelorette, wedding gifts, clothing to attend, travel expenses, housewarming gifts, baby showers, baby gifts, meals for new parents, kid birthday presents, and more, when it’s never your turn to receive anything in return. We spend far more on you and your family than you spent on 1 meal at your wedding. You chose what to serve at your wedding. Be more frugal and just have cake if you’re going to complain. Our presence at your wedding is a gift to you, not your gift to us. It does suck when people fail to show up. But you know, newlyweds and new parents suck at it way way way way way more.

        • Jeanie

          Chill. I’m not complaining. I’m just relating to LEM’s comment above in an understanding fashion. You must have some personal deal with this or something, I have no idea why you’re so worked up. And you have no idea what my life is like, because it’s pretty far from what you’re talking about.

        • Tory

          Also, that’s the point of RSVP. If you can’t attend, you save you and the other party the cost of your attendance. The hurtful part is when you are “too busy” to even acknowledge that other people have their own things that are the most important to them. Maybe their wedding isn’t as important to you as it is to them and maybe they can’t relate to your work chaos in the same way. I think adulthood comes with understanding and having the empathy to value the differences in your friends’ lives and finding ways to support them even if you can’t directly relate. As we get older, we rarely all stay on the same wavelength but doesn’t mean we need to lose the frequency.

  • I’ve been struggling with this recently. My best friends from college and I were inseparable and now we live in three different states. We do a decent job of staying in contact with an ongoing group chat and visiting every couple of months.

    But I’ve found that being the only one is a serious relationship (one of them is single and the other is in such a long distance relationship, she may as well be) has made it harder. I’m talking about a potential wedding and buying a house and moving to advance my career, and they share their love for five different TV shows they’ve bingewatched and I haven’t had time to see yet.

  • Ashley

    I bought a pile of stamps on Saturday for this exact reason. Sooo many cards have gone un-sent and I always forget that buying a card doesn’t count unless you actually mail it. Who even knew we still had post offices?

  • Aydan

    This is why I write the people I care about (near and far) birthday letters! Sometimes the people you are “close” to, you don’t get a chance to talk to very much–therefore, I send letters! birthday letter primarily and sometimes just because letters!

  • Bo

    Coming from a place of once having 0 friends ever, I’m the sort of person who has classically overreached in the friendship efforts because I was so excited to have them. It’s only recently that I’ve actively decided to dial it back for most of them because they don’t care as much about that stuff in return (there was also a percentage within this group of friends who didn’t care as much about *me* in return so they’ve been consciously uncoupled from my life).

    Adult life brings with it major complications that you don’t have to deal with as a teenager too, though, so you shouldn’t be hard on yourself about it. For example, I’ve got an old school friend who I used to see all the time, but not as much now that she’s engaged and lives further away. That alone doesn’t bother me, but there’s a whole heap of other facets to her life which do, and most of them stem from her fiancée – he doesn’t really have respect for her, has these sudden mood swings where he blames her for any problems, gambles, has tied up all of her financial assets with his so she technically has nothing alone, and keeps her at home most of the (the reason being he ‘needs’ her to manage the accounts of his business in their home office). He’s known for his bad temper and she tries to avoid setting it off as much as possible – I don’t think she realises how anxious she is all the time these days. Coming from the public health sector and correspondingly being more educated about these things than some other people, I know that these are all markers for a future domestic violence scenario. Now, I also know enough about the nature of these relationships and my friend that if I pointed all of these things out to her, she would probably never speak to me again. I’ve tried dropping some hints about my thoughts to other mutual friends but they all think he’s this saint who would never hurt her because look at the size of her engagement ring! What a guy!
    So, how’s that for an adult relationship.

  • susanbeee

    I don’t really buy this. It’s one thing to pickup where you left off with friends who are far away without needing to talk to them constantly or having to say no to plans because you’re exhausted, but there’s really no excuse for not RSVPing for something as monumental in someone’s life as a bridal shower, even if it’s to say you can’t make it. It takes two seconds to send a text on someone’s birthday (set reminder alerts in your phone calendar!), it’s all a matter of prioritizing. We all make mistakes and fail to show up sometimes but if you truly value a friendship, you should be making an effort and putting your friends before yourself sometimes.

    • CatMom

      Yeah, I mean that’s just rude. It would be rude no matter who it was.

    • Cat

      As monumental as a bridal shower?? Some people are SO needy for attention. If you want to get married, fine, but it should be enough that your friends come to your wedding and buy you gifts and take part in your big day – why do you need to drag it out with bridal showers and bachelorettes etc? This trend for narcissism in every aspect of life now is getting way out of hand. People who insist on all this fuss for every single run of the mill life choice that a million other people make every day without having to throw a look at me party are usually the same types who would get equally as offended if the friend did RSVP but declined to attend.

      • susanbeee

        I see what you’re saying here, but that wasn’t really my point. It’s not my job to decide whether or not a close friend of mine is being narcissistic by having a bridal shower, but if it’s a formal event with an RSVP, I absolutely will take the time to indicate whether or not I’ll be attending, even if it is to decline!

      • Liberty

        THIS. And these are the people who rarely reciprocate.

  • That has even bigger repercussions when you move abroad. I’ve been living in New York for 3 years – originally from Portugal – and friendships are even harder to keep track off. The two parties are to blame for. I have a hard time keeping in touch and my friends often forget me. So what does that say about friendships? When I go back it’s never the same and they say they keep “forgetting” I’m there on vacation and I have to be the one pushing harder to be included. I get it to some point but after seeing me every day for a few weeks, you get the point that I’m there. Anyway. Feeling really sad about the realization that this article hits exactly “home”! Xx


    • Miss J

      When you go and see the friends that you haven’t seen in years, what makes me feel weird (it’s just a short moment) is seeing all of these friends who are all great, fine, live their life, but without you. It used to make me sad when I realized that in reality, I’m a passerby, not a real factor in their lives. They’re always welcoming and happy to see me, but if I’m actually there or not, doesn’t change anything for them.

      • That’s so true. I realized that as well. Every time I go back. Especially when it’s for longer periods like summer. It’s sad but I guess we have to get used to it because in reality, we’re doing the same!

  • Liz ingle

    Great article. I’ve experienced similar things and even wrote something myself along the same lines. If you’d like to check it out I’d love to hear your thoughts. https://workingmomfacts.com/2016/12/19/good-friends-can-diverge/

  • Virginia Ribeiro de Assis

    I disagree wholeheartedly. Adult friendships aren’t difficult, they’re about your PRIORITIES. I run a company that keeps me ultra busy but I set reminders to reply on invitations and I call friends and family when I am in the car because I CARE ABOUT THEM. I prioritize on my important friendships over acquaintances. If you “can’t find time to reply to an invitation” you’re (A) rude, and (B) telling me that you don’t even care enough to LET ME KNOW. You’re disrespecting my time and the effort I put into this friendship. It’s not a problem if you can’t ATTEND the event. Our schedules are busy, I get that. But not having the time to send a FB message or email as a reply is a lie. You can do that in the bus. In the bathroom. In the supermarket. And if texting is REALLY too much of an effort, CALL THEM.

    • Selina Vink

      Not a fan of caps lock, but I totally agree with you.

    • Jenelle

      I have to completely agree with this. I understand everyone gets busy and everyone has a life but I also think if a relationship is important to you (be it romantic, familial, friend) then you make time for it. It’s not hard to call someone when you’re walking 15 minutes to a location or to send a quick text to check in or to reply to an email about something. I make to-do lists all the time with those things so that I don’t forget. Granted, some friends I talk to every few days and some I talk to every few months but in all of those relationships we’re making an effort to remain close. If I honestly can’t be bothered to make even a little bit of time to reply to them or check in with them it probably means I’m not invested in the relationship and don’t care all that much.

    • Yep. Agree. I get angry when close friends don’t reply on whatsapp (not immediately obvs, but after a day or so). If I sent a close friend a proper invitation to an expensive event and they didn’t even RSVP I would get over it I guess but I would be really offended. Because it’s incredibly rude. A text rsvp can be send in under a minute sitting on the toilet. Come on.

    • You revealed the truth level, while she told what she needed to say. On the surface, to certain ones.

    • Polkadotfoxtrot

      I agree with this. If you can’t even respond to an invitation that’s pretty crappy. And “forgetting” isn’t an excuse. There are so many ways to be reminded. The problem is this friend is not your priority. Just admit it to yourself. Maybe this “friend” will realize this too and stop including you in things. That would be the best for all involved. If you keep doing this kind of stuff because you are too “forgetful” or too busy, you are soon going to find yourself with very few friends.

  • J

    I make friends quite quickly in a new setting/job, but sometimes it takes time for me to sort out how deep each friendship is/will be. One friend, who is also a coworker, seemed pretty close. I was a big cheerleader for some changes she was working for in her job/dept. Then I got promoted in my dept. (in no way in competition with her) and she didn’t say anyting about it. She even started avoiding me and it got very awkward. I never thought our friendship would fall victim to women feeling they are in competition with one another, but I can’t think of any other reason for the breach. I made a few lame attempts to see how she is/check if anything was going on between us, but they were superficial conversations and quite uncomfortable. Now when we run into each other it feels much more awkward than if we’d never really known each other. I am going to pick up on her clear signals now and stop trying to resurrect it.

    • Before she is a woman, she is still an individual at the end of the day. She may have worked hard expecting one for her role herself/ really had personal goals aligned with a promotion/ wasn’t feeling secure in her own role for. Not even about you per say just about the fact that she didn’t get something she wanted and you may be the face of her failure (without sounding really down).

      I know this because I’ve been in that position where once I tried to avoid two good friends of mine who I am so proud of (one studing masters at one of the best universities in the world and other becoming an Analyst at Morgan Stanley) but I didn’t feel I was on their “level”/ really insecure about if how they view me now and dissappointed at myself that I couldn’t work as hard as them which is rather silly but… it happens. They became the face of everything weird I felt about myself, a standard I couldn’t reach.

      The relationship is over now but rather than taking it as jeaousy/ competition, just know it could be other things too. Esp if she isn’t badmouthing you to others and just trying to cut you off.

  • Moe

    This was definitely insightful! I’m wondering if I’m the only one who experiences this but finds it hard to get over things? I feel like in my younger years, fighting in a friendship felt normal and to not have a fight or spat felt somewhat abnormal? Now that I’m early 20’s and have stopped contact with most of the friends I had in high school, I’m much more selective of my friends and find it harder to deal with fights. When I have a serious friendship with someone I think of them in terms of a “forever friend” it doesn’t mean we have to be close 24/7 and talk every day but I think of gaining new friends as cultivating life long friendships so when they do something that upsets me its hard for me to not want to cut if off because I’m like….are they going to do this forever? They didn’t show up emotionally for me this one time so will they the next time? Its almost like I’ve been conditioned to think that adult friendships are without hiccups and its abnormal to fight. I’m finding that even though it was much more dramatic and time consuming, it was much easier to be a friend when I was younger.

  • Miss J

    I used to have a friend who’d say “Friends. They’re the only things in life that you cannot choose”. I always laughed at him for saying that until many years later, when I came to realize that he was right- you don’t choose the friends that make the friendships work; when there’s a mutual understanding, a real understanding, they just happen to work, no justifications necessary. That’s what I call unconditional friendship.

  • Beasliee

    I think I am on the other side of this. I feel like I have to BEG my 3 old school friends to make arrangements and meet up. It really hurts that they don’t seem bothered at all and think that ‘being a friend’ means you can go 6 months without making any effort at all.
    I understand people have full and busy lives but a reply to say that date / plan does or doesn’t work takes no time at all. I feel like I have to desperately drag it out of them every time.
    For example –
    We agreed 2 possible dates in April at the start of the year. Two weeks I ago I asked them to confirm. Two of the 3 have now made other plans for one of the dates. Fine. Make a suggestion for what we will do on the other available date. One agrees. Directly ask the other 2 for their thoughts. 7 days later they are still to reply.
    What is the approach to resolving this? Is my upset right? Do I expect too much? Am I a worse friend than I think? I don’t know!?

  • Miss J

    I think people expect too much. Sure, all relationships should have a give and take format, but I firmly believe that if you have to go out of your way to make it work, it’s not worth it. Then it’s work and not friendship. I expect understanding from my friends. Being an expatriate and wife of a diplomat, I can never have physical friends for more than 4 years. Some stick with you via internet and yearly visits, you make new ones, etc. I don’t think that the length of time spent with someone should define the strength of the friendship. I’ve known people for two weeks who have been better friends than those I’ve known for 12 years. It’s chemistry + having no expectations.
    I used to be sad because it seemed that most of the people that I know, sooner or later disappoint me. I’ve learned to accept that my hopes were too high, and not all people are great. Lately, what elders tell children keeps coming back- friends come and go. I’m 32 and I tell my 25 year old nieces that- not friends anymore? Who cares? You’ll make others. I prefer to cling to things now rather to people. My things will remind me of things that long-gone friends wont.
    To me, real friends are those that when you run into them five or ten years later, you just continue from where you left off.

  • Bea

    I am struggling with this too. I lowered my expectations in the last couple of years. I also have a busy life and try to be understanding of others. At some point, however, you need to accept that a friendship is over. After almost a year trying to meet up with 2 friends that ignored my birthday and *never* have time for coffee, I reached my limit and decided I don’t have time for them either. I don’t see the point in trying to force anyone to meet me or be my friend.

  • Kristie

    When it comes to relationships, it was my little sister, weirdly, who taught me to ask myself if my emotions, thoughts, and actions were in agreement.

    Real life example: I rsvp’ed to go to a colleague’s party, and then my cousin/best friend came to visit from out of town. She was too tired to go, but I was reluctant to bail on this party because I’d recently bailed on this same group of friends, people I like and hang out with occasionally but with whom I wasn’t all that close.

    Me, debating: “Well if I bail it kinda looks like I don’t
    care about my relationship with them. But on the other hand, I guess I kinda
    don’t care…”

    Cousin: “Sounds like your actions would be an accurate reflection
    of your feelings then.”

    So I bailed with the real excuse that my cousin was visiting, and it actually made things waayyyy easier going forward because I’ve firmly established my standing with that group, instead of just occasionally pretending we’re all besties and feeling horribly guilt for bailing. Whereas if I’d gone, I’d have been resented being there, even when my friends invited me for fun and out of good will.

    It made me realize that forcing myself to do stuff I don’t want to in the name of “friendship” is actually dishonest, and that friendships can exist on a spectrum as well.

  • Nikka Duarte

    Aghhh I feel this so much. Though I don’t consider myself a full on “adult”, I’ve always had this kind of mindset, which is why I have such a small circle. It’s hard because I’m fine (and actually happy) with seeing my friends maybe once or twice a month, and what I’ve found is the my good friends are completely understanding. That being said, I have a one who naturally wants or needs more than that so I try to see her a more often or stay connected through texts and calls. I think in any relationship there needs to be a mutual understanding of what you expect from each other. Seeing it like that has helped me a ton.

  • CatMom

    I truly, truly don’t mean to be harsh, but this comes off as a little bit self-absorbed. Yes, becoming an adult is about learning to balance your priorities – when to prioritize yourself and when to prioritize others, ideally with a little bit more of the latter than when you were a child. It’s frankly rude not to RSVP to an invitation, whether it’s from your friend, your second cousin, or your coworker, so your friend may well be asking herself at this moment if she wants to continue being friends with someone who can be so inconsiderate.

    The fact of the matter is, ALL relationships require work from all parties involved. There is no such thing as “meant to be” (and even if you sincerely believe this, well, God helps those who help themselves). If you want friends who show up for you, you have to show up for them. It takes effort – but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s another part of being an adult.

  • Nicole

    This spoke to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about mature friendships and how difficult it is to love yourself and also give to others. I have a few friends that have endured from when I was younger, and I’ve come to realize that sometimes the person I’ve become, which I know is a better, more fuller version of me than say me 5 years ago, is not always someone an old friend can keep up with. Repairing old friendships is something that presses on me, like Amelia wrote, but I’ve been learning the difficult lesson that it’s okay to move on and realize that sometimes you outgrow friends and they might outgrow you.

  • It’s really interesting to see how split the comments are on this. Some people seem to really identify, and others really not. I just want to say one point about the author saying she was a good friend ‘where it counts’ – and that’s just to remember that ‘where it counts’ is entirely subjective. You may think that not sending a congratulations on your promotion message but turning up to drinks when someone gets dumped is being there ‘when it counts’ but the friend in question might not see it that way at all. Always remember they might be wondering why you only turn up to the stuff that perticularly interests you, and more people may be quietly dropping you behind the scenes than you realise if you constantly let yourself off the hook from caring about the things they – and not just you – care about.

    Not that I’m a wise old sage of friendship or anything, but I have friends like the author, and trust me it does hurt sometimes, your friends just won’t tell you, cos they know you can’t see it their way.
    Whiskey Tango Flat White | Life and style in weird short essays

  • Mild Red

    I disagree completely and I think it’s an excuse. It’s common decency to just let them know that you can’t make it. How hard it is to pick up the phone, send a text, or write email.

  • Being inconsiderate isn’t the same as being bad at something. Not RSVPing is the former, needing to bail because you need sleep is neither. Frankly, if your love is sincere, a quick call isn’t that difficult to schedule in (or, at least, an email or a text.)

  • Silvia

    No, this just sounds like you’re lazy.

    • Silvia

      Oh, and kinda selfish.

  • After reading through these comments.. I just have to say, Amelia, I can totally relate. Though you are probably a much better friend than I will ever be.

    I’ve never struggled with making friends but I’ve always struggled in being a really good friend to women I’ve met over the years that I could tell wanted something more… permanent and regular. With these woman I always know that I will disappoint 🙁 I’m a single Mom and business owner and my private time is precious to me. At some point I’ll go through a phase of not wanting to talk to anyone for a month (hermit tendency) or will just lose the energy to talk on the phone on a regular basis and because of that, because of my inability to maintain the friendship I inevitably lose them. I have 1 extremely close gal pal that gets me. Her and I understand one another’s self absorbed tendencies and love one another despite it. She’s an even bigger flake than I, if possible. She will back out on lunch dates and phone calls and is never, ever ready on time. It used to drive me nuts, but now I just budget time accordingly. I love her and have no expectations. She offers me the same. If any friend needed me for anything, I would be there in a heart beat.. but the day to day friendship management is something I suck at and the reason I keep my friend list extremely short.. I just know I can’t manage more. Keep being real, girl <3

  • megan

    Late to the conversation but this article hits home for me. It’s something I do too – I am guilty of not RSVPing events – but here’s the thing: they are all events I don’t want to go to and/or I received the invite over some social media outlet that makes it less formal in my mind. To those points, a few thoughts:
    1) I vacillate between feeling annoyed and guilty about a college friendship I don’t care about keeping up with anymore but can’t get on the same page about with the other person. We live in different cities, lead very different lives, and *all* I want is to have a healthy, long distance relationship where we see each other when we are in each other’s towns and catch up once a year at that point. It seems to me that men are more capable of these types of relationships than women – the “we haven’t seen each other or talked to each other in ages and that’s totally fine” type of relationship where you still care about the person and want everything great for them, but you don’t need to “keep up” with the details of their daily life. I think women – and this is a generalization, I am aware – tend to put sooo much pressure on ourselves and our friends to be “best” friends and keep up this crazy facade of being intimately caring about every friend we have had since childhood. It’s just too much to carry through life.
    2) I think social media has made this problem even worse because now you *can* “keep up” with life details even when you really don’t want to. There is this expectation that you should care because you see their posts everyday, even when you really, really don’t care and want to remove them from your feed (nothing negative, just don’t care!). Before we had these tools, I think it was easier for friends to part ways and take long hiatuses from each other without bringing on the “you don’t care about my life” conflict.
    3) Not to Amelia, but to other commentators: if you are finding that people are often not RSVPing to your invitations, maybe review your guest list again (are you *really* that close with these people if you didn’t know if they were coming anyway??) or take what the person is saying to heart without feeling offended. They don’t care and that’s ok! Move on! It doesn’t mean that you need to take up your own time or their time by getting mad about it. Just say “ok, not inviting you next time” and if you run into them on the street, wave, smile, and be polite to this now acquaintance (not everyone has to be your friend!) and let them live their life.

  • mcfot

    Late to the conversation but this article hits home for me. It’s something I do too – I am guilty of not RSVPing events – but here’s the thing: they are all events I don’t want to go to and/or I received the invite over some social media outlet that makes it less formal in my mind. To those points, a few thoughts:
    1) I vacillate between feeling annoyed and guilty about a college friendship I don’t care about keeping up with anymore but can’t get on the same page about with the other person. We live in different cities, lead very different lives, and *all* I want is to have a healthy, long distance relationship where we see each other when we are in each other’s towns and catch up once a year at that point. It seems to me that men are more capable of these types of relationships than women – the “we haven’t seen each other or talked to each other in ages and that’s totally fine” type of relationship where you still care about the person and want everything great for them, but you don’t need to “keep up” with the details of their daily life. I think women – and this is a generalization, I am aware – tend to put sooo much pressure on ourselves and our friends to be “best” friends and keep up this crazy facade of being intimately caring about every friend we have had since childhood. It’s just too much to carry through life.
    2) I think social media has made this problem even worse because now you *can* “keep up” with life details even when you really don’t want to. There is this expectation that you should care because you see their posts everyday, even when you really, really don’t care and want to remove them from your feed (nothing negative, just don’t care!). Before we had these tools, I think it was easier for friends to part ways and take long hiatuses from each other without bringing on the “you don’t care about my life” conflict.
    3) Not to Amelia, but to other commentators: if you are finding that people are often not RSVPing to your invitations, maybe review your guest list again (are you *really* that close with these people if you didn’t know if they were coming anyway??) or take what the person is saying to heart without feeling offended. They don’t care and that’s ok! Move on! It doesn’t mean that you need to take up your own time or their time by getting mad about it. Just say “ok, not inviting you next time” and if you run into them on the street, wave, smile, and be polite to this now acquaintance (not everyone has to be your friend!) and let them live their life.

  • Melissa

    What I feel about adult friendships is kind of how o feel about all my adult relationships: above all, they’re reciprocal
    We might not talk often or hang out all the time, but we KNOW we’ll be there for each other if we need to, no wondering if I’m as “important” to them as they are to me (which I felt was a big issue when I was younger)

    • Melissa

      Maybe that has to do with getting over the high-school ideia that if you’re not always surrounded by friends you’re pathetic or whatever

  • Koa Peach

    my friend is very needy.. always wanting to hangout I once hung with her three days in a row. she isn’t fun to hangout with shes always on her phone. I have talked to her many times about it she isn’t willing to change. she never seems to want to do stuff with my friends and I. we don’t have mutual friends I do lots of stuff with her friends.. she never wants to do things with me one on one only if it’s stuff she wants to do. I ask her if she wants to see a movie she says that they are to expensive and only likes going in groups. but I will hear from her the next day saying she just saw a movie with her friend one on one. I have heard her say she ran into her friend at a local event.. then I’ll be at her weekly events and hear from that friend that they actually made plans to meet there. I’m like why did she lie? when I don’t want to hangout I say that I am busy those days and I will let her know when I’m free. but she will continue to text me suggesting different times to hangout.. I was at my dads bday dinner last week and she was wanting for me to come over.. I told her I was at my dads birthday dinner and I would talk to her later. she texted me again 30mins later asking if I was done yet? I wasn’t we had just gotten our food. I told her I couldn’t hangout and wanted to spend this time with my dad. she texted again saying so you can’t even hangout after your done? I don’t understand her? she just texts when we chill and even randomly leaves me in her house to go upstairs without saying anything or sometimes says shes going to the lou. even though there is one on the floor we are on. and she never comes back down I’ve timed her before 30mins is when I go up to see what shes doing.. normally shes texting, on her computer on facebook once I found her trying clothes on.. she had the door half open. I said what are you doing? she said I was just trying something on then slammed the door in my face.. why can’t she do this stuff on her own time? I’ve been at her house with her other friends she does the same thing leaves to her room for long periods of time.. she pretty much texts me everyday.. asking to hangout or what I’m doing.. once I was walking my dog when she texted me she asked what I was doing I told her I was walking my dog and was going to fill up her pool after so she could cool off. she replied with “my dog has a real pool he can swim in he doesn’t need a fake one.” I was taken aback with that text.. I didn’t know how to reply.. btw this person is 25 there have been other texts just like that one they all start with what are you doing? or are you doing anything today? I got one the other day that said hey are you doing anything today? I said no. she replied with a time and a place she was going with her friends and listed some of their names. I was thinking I was going to be invited you know? but she ended the text with btw you aren’t invited. now at this point I feel like my friend is very immature.. none of my other friends act this way..I had my bday tea party this Friday.. my two good friends requested time off for the date I had given.. this friend told me she couldn’t do friday because that’s the day she always spends with her boyfriend. but this day worked best for my two good friends so I wasn’t going to change it. The date had been set for about two weeks so this friend knew about it.. and I had heard from my two friends that they both could go and that they had already requested time off. then I heard from this friend that the day didn’t work because that’s the day they see their man. I told them I couldn’t change it my other friends already requested time off. but they continued to ask me up until the day of my party. oh and they also asked if they could bring their boyfriend like seriously?! of course I said no.. but the odd thing was they told me what there boyfriend would be doing while they were at my party. I was like why do I need to know what your boyfriend is doing instead? like what? also my other friends thought It was odd she asked if her bf could come because they would have told their boyfriends they had a friends birthday to go to. and a boyfriend would understand you know? just one Friday without them being together would be fine.. at least my boyfriend would understand. I did ask a few of this persons friends that I felt comfortable with asking them if this friend treated them this way they said yes to the texting but no to the rest. one of their friends actually got really mad and was surprised that this friend was saying all this to me and said it wasn’t right and told me i should stand up for myself. I did but i guess not enough.. it always seemed to make matters worse when I did I always picked my words carefully but my friend always took my words differently and got really mad. I always found myself saying sorry when I did nothing wrong.. I saw this persons phone beep once and they weren’t near it and it had a bunch of texts from different people saying “sorry I didn’t mean to” “sorry my bad” “sorry” also this friend has lost four friends during our friendship and they all left the same way stopped talking to her out of the blue. I have asked this friend TO come over many times they always say they can’t or don’t reply. they have been over twice but for short times. after my bday party I asked them if they wanted to come over next week. they said I’ve only been to your house twice I don’t feel comfortable because I don’t know your parents. I’ve invited them many times to do stuff with my family and to come over they either don’t reply or cancel last min or say come to my house instead. I’ve been friends with her for 4 years. Sorry this is so long hopefully you will answer. Ive never had a friendship like this before

  • Wow. Its 2017. The reason why I dont forgive this is our calendars are on our phones and they talk to us! Just follow up the RSVP. Buy stamps girl! I had to become a business owner before i did it so i understand. This isnt hard. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If this was a guy that ghosted you on Tinder you would find it disrespectful. So why would you treat an acquaintance someone you actually know that way? If you don’t want to go, if you can’t go, speak up, be honest.

  • alchemy

    A healthy friendship looks like the tide, not a river. When one is needier, it might look like a river for a time; but if the dynamic doesn’t revert to tide-like, it’s no longer a healthy friendship.

  • Nikoru Majesukii

    I’m too physically tired and mentally ill to do ANYTHING worthwhile for my friends. So when they end up telling me off and blocking my number, I’m never surprised. In fact, I’m certain I won’t have anyone at my funeral. It’s not that I don’t care…It’s that I’m broken, fundamentally, as a human being. And then I emotionally distance myself from my friends because let’s be honest here…If I haven’t already put them off, my terrible sense of humor and overall bad attitude WILL.

    Some people aren’t meant for friendship. I’m one of them.

  • Jedi

    Americans prioritize work. Communities where people share experiences are basically dead because everyone is paranoid and judgmental of the other. It blows my mind how hard we make it on each other to be friends.

    My wife is from Spain. Her friends are college and graduate-level educated with families and jobs and mortgages. They get together at least once per week. They make the effort so it happens. They are willing to be spontaneous. Americans are not. A get-together has to be planned weeks in advance and often one person does all the chasing and planning while the other says “Well…. um… let me check my schedule…” it’s like making an appointment to see a doctor rather than a fun time with a friend.

    Americans scapegoat everything for why they don’t stay in touch with friends in middle age: kids, work, etc. All that stuff will always be there. Bottom line is if you want to keep a friend, you have to make time.

    Priorities are priorities. If you make friendship a priority then you will have them as an adult. If you forever say “Well, I have to go to X,Y, or Z instead of hang out with my friend”, then you won’t see your friends and the relationship will weaken.

    If you do, then you’ll have happy healthy friendships .

    Own your priorities. Don’t blame circumstance for not seeing a friend. You got your degree, spouse, kid, job and mortgage. You can find 2 hours for beers.

    Just my 2 cents .